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After Controversy, Savannah Arena Management Deal Approved

New Savannah arena rendering

After controversy that included an appeal from a competing firm, the Savannah City Council voted Thursday to approve an arena management contract with Oak View Group.

Oak View Group’s bid to manage the upcoming arena, slated to open in late 2021, was recommended ahead of a proposal from second-place finisher SMG. SMG representatives criticized this decision, citing what they believed was a flawed and unfair selection process undertaken by the city.

A public appeal was made by the company at Thursday’s city council meeting, and officials voted to reject the appeal. In a separate vote, the council awarded the Savannah arena management contract to Oak View Group. Both votes were 5-3. More from

SMG Venue Services lost the bid to oversee operations and management at Savannah’s new arena to the OVG team. In Thursday’s city council meetings, attorneys and leaders from the group asked for an appeal on the decision, citing unfairness.

“The failings in OVG proposal and the manner in which they have participated in this process has been fatally, fatally compromised this RFP process,” said Harold Buckley, Jr., the attorney representing SMG.

SMG claims council held an unlawful closed-door meeting by inviting the OVG team before the contract was approved. City Manager Rob Hernandez says the meeting was lawful because they did not negotiate with them.

“I can tell you that has not taken place,” Hernandez said. “We have not entertained any negotiations with OVG and won’t do so until this board directs staff to do that by awarding a contract.”

The new arena is being planned as an anchor of the Canal District development project west of downtown Savannah. It has been pitched as a more modern event space in comparison to Savannah’s aging Civic Center, as well a key feature in a broader development project that could better connect the area surrounding the venue to downtown Savannah.

Rendering courtesy Perkins+Will.

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